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Hard water causes a number of problems around the home. Any surface hard water comes into contact with will experience scaling. Soap scum will form when hard water comes into contact with soap, and the minerals in hard water can cause damage to your clothes, skin and hair.
While water softening is a time-proven method to deal with water hardness, there are also great water softeners alternatives that can eliminate the hard water problems you are experiencing around your house. This is especially important for people in areas with brine restrictions in place. These alternatives don’t require the use of salt. Understanding these options can help you determine between a salt versus salt free water softener or a water conditioner system.
The best salt free water softener is actually a water conditioner and by definition is not a water softener. The best salt free water conditioners eliminate the effects of hard water through a process that is fundamentally different from traditional water softeners. Let’s take a look at how water softening and water conditioning systems function:
Wondering “How does salt soften water?” Water softeners use a process known as ion exchange to remove hard minerals from water. To do this, water softeners use a tank filled with negatively charged resin beads. These beads have positively charged sodium ions attached to them. The hard minerals in water are also positively charged.
When hard water enters the system, the hard minerals are attracted away from the water molecule and towards the resin beads. The water molecule then picks up the displaced sodium ion to maintain a balanced charge. The water exiting the system is now soft but does contain a small amount of sodium.
There is relatively little sodium in softened water. For individuals concerned with sodium in their water, one of the best options is to install a reverse osmosis water filtration system at a specific sink. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are capable of removing sodium from softened water, as well as many other contaminants you may not want to consume.
Rather than remove hard minerals from gallons of water, a water conditioner can change those minerals. Using a material known as template-assisted crystallization (TAC) media, a Rayne Spartan water conditioners cause a small portion of the mineral content in hard water to crystallize. These crystals are sometimes called seed-crystals because they begin to attract the other minerals in the water.
By causing these small crystals to form, water conditioners create a site other minerals in the hard water will preferentially attach to. This means instead of attaching to the pipes, fixtures, and surfaces around your home, the hard minerals in conditioned water will bond to themselves in their crystalline form — increasing the flow rate and keeps your plumbing pipes clean.
One thing to note about this process is the crystals formed by hard minerals are tiny. They are so small you can’t see or feel them, but they will still affect the taste of the water. Since some people prefer the taste of water with some mineral content, this can actually be a benefit. For those individuals who prefer to filter the mineral content out of their water, using a reverse osmosis filtration system for drinking water is a good option.
Like water softeners, water conditioners are installed at the main water line coming into your house water filter. This ensures all of the water moving throughout your home is conditioned. With whole-house water conditioning, you’ll completely eliminate the most common hard water problems including faucets scaling and soap scum in your water supply.
Water conditioners have a couple of features that can make them attractive in certain situations.
At Rayne Water, our salt-free water conditioners also incorporate other types of filtration, allowing them to reduce disinfectants used to treat tap water such as chlorine, as well as chloramines, suspended solids, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other substances which can give your drinking water a bad odor or taste. For more information, see our guide to Does Water Have a Taste.
Although most people use and have great experiences with water softeners, for a variety of reasons you may want to consider salt-free alternatives. Some people prefer the taste of water with minerals, some are concerned about sodium intake, and some live in areas with brine restrictions.
Whatever the reason, the best non salt water softener is in fact not a water softener at all, it is known as a water conditioner. Water conditioners don’t remove hard minerals like calcium and magnesium from water, but rather change it into a crystalline form that doesn’t attach to the surfaces, fixtures, and appliances it comes into contact with. Additionally, see our guide to How to Remove Salt from Water for a detailed explanation.
Water conditioners are an effective and efficient method of dealing with hard water for your entire home. To learn more about water conditioners for your home, please contact Rayne Water today — with us, it’s easy to install.